Board of Education v. Bradford

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In the Circu it Court for B altimore C ity Case Nos. 94340058/CE189672 and 95258055/CL202151 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 85 September Term, 2004 ______________________________________ MARYLAND STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL. v. KEITH A. BRADFORD, ET AL. ______________________________________ Bell, C.J. Raker Wilner Harrell Battaglia Greene Eldr idge , Joh n C. ( Reti red, S peci ally Assigned), JJ. ______________________________________ Opinion by Wilner, J. ______________________________________ Filed: June 9, 2005 This appeal co nstitutes the lates t skirmish in a decades-long battle by Baltimore City and others to force the General Assembly, in carrying out its mandate under Article VIII of the Maryland Constitution to establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient System of Free Public S chools [an d] provide by taxation, or o therwise, fo r their mainten ance, to increase substantially its funding suppo rt for the Baltim ore City P ublic S chool S ystem. The appeal now before us, by the State, q uestions, on jurisdictional, procedural, and substantive grounds, the validity of an order en tered by the C ircuit Court f or Baltimo re City in Augu st, 2004. We shall conclude that (1) the validity of much that is now being challenged by the State is not properly before us at present, but (2) o ne aspect of the cou rt s order is before us and is invalid. BACKGROUND In Hornbeck v. Somerset Co. Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758 (1983), which, in a sense, was a precursor to the present litigation, we traced in some detail the historical development of the public school system in Maryland and the method of funding it; we need not repeat that history here. Suffice it to say that, through legislative enactments by the General Assembly, in furtherance of the mandate of Article VIII, § 1 of the Constitution, the operation and funding of the public school system is, a nd since its inception in 1864 has been, a joint effort by the State and local governments. The State Board of Education and the State Sup erintenden t of Scho ols set the ov erall educatio nal policy of th e State and provide general direction and supervisor y authority over the system, but, sub ject to that State direction and authority, it is predominantly the school boards and scho ol superinten dents in each of the 23 counties and Baltimore City that operate the public schools. Those subdiv isions co nstitute th e schoo l districts o f the Sta te. The funding of the system has also been, and remains, a jo int effort be tween the State and its political subdivisions. In 1979, Baltimore City and three counties filed suit in the Circuit Court fo r Baltimore City seeking a declaratory jud gment tha t the then-existing system for financing the public schools, which required the counties and Baltimore City to shoulder approxim ately 46% of the current expenses needed to operate the public schools, violated both Article VIII of the Maryland Constitution and the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteen th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. That was the Hornbeck case. The gravamen of the attack in that case w as that, because of significant disparities in the wealth of the various political subdivisions, there was an unequal ability to provide the necessary local funding, which resulted in substantial differences among the subdivisions in overall per pupil expenditures. The effect, it was alleged, was to underfund education in some su bdivisions a nd possib ly overfund it in others, and that, in turn, created disparities in the quality of the educational program in the subdiv isions. The Circuit Court, believing itself bound by the Supreme Court s decision in San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 93 S. C t. 1278, 36 L. Ed.2d 1 6 (1973), found no violation of equal protection under the Federal Constitution but declared the -2- financing scheme unconstitutional under Article VIII of the Maryland Constitution and Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. This Court vacated the Circuit Court decree. With resp ect to Article VIII, we held that the Constitutional provision did not require uniformity in funding and did not preclude the political subdivisions from providing local funds, in the amounts they deemed adequate, to supplement the level of basic State funding. We said in that regard: The development of the sta tewide system under § 1 [of Art. VIII] is a matter for legislative determination; at most, the legislature is commanded by § 1 to establish such a system, effective in all school d istricts, as will prov ide the State s youth with a basic public school education. To the extent that § 1 encompasses any equality com ponent, it is so lim ited. Compliance by the legislature with this du ty is complian ce with § 1 of A rticle VI II of the 1867 C onstitutio n. Hornbeck, supra, 295 Md. at 632, 458 A.2d at 776-77. We agreed with the Circuit Court that, in light of the Supreme Court s decision in San Antonio School District, there was no Federal equal protection violation. As to State equal protection, we concluded that neither Article VIII nor Article III, § 52 of the Maryland Constitution established a fundam ental right fo r equal prote ction purposes, that the equal protection issue was therefore to be judged under the rational basis test, and that the legislative objective of preserving and promoting local control over education is both a legitimate state interest and one to which the present financing system is reason ably relate d. Id. at 654, 458 A.2d at 788. Accordingly, we held that the then-current system of public education financing satisfied the ra tional basis test. -3- Our Opinion in Hornbeck was filed in April, 1983. This case began in Decembe r, 1994, when the parents of several students in the Baltimore City School System filed a class action lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against the State. The action was allegedly on behalf of present and future students in th e Baltimor e City Public Schools who are at risk of educa tional fa ilure. 1 We shall refer to that case as the Bradford case, after the name of the lead plaintiff. At-risk students were defined in the complaint as those who experience circumstances of economic, social, and/or educational disadvantage that substantially increase the likelihood th at they will fail to obtain an a dequate e ducation in public school. The te rm w as fu rther def ined as includ ing s tude nts w ho live in pov erty, attend schools with a high proportion of students living in poverty, live with fewer than two parents, have pare nts who d id not gradu ate from h igh schoo l, live with pare nts who are unemployed, are homeless, are themselves parents or pregnant, live under the threat of violence at home, h ave been retained in grade on at least one occasion, score more than one year below grade level on standardized tests, or have otherwise been determine d to be in need of remedial education. The complaint alleged that the vast majority of students in the Baltimore City Public Schools more than 70,000 were in that category and that the 1 The actu al defend ants were the State B oard of E ducation, the State Superintendent of Schools, the Governor, and the Comptroller. The Governor and the Comptroller were later dismissed as defendants. For convenience, we shall refer to the State defendants in this action a nd in the action by Baltimore C ity, discussed later, collectively as the State. Pursuant to a stipulation, it was agreed that the plaintiffs proposed class would not be certified in accordance with Maryland Rule 2-231 but that the plain tiffs w ould be deem ed rep resenta tive plain tiffs. -4- percentage of at-risk stud ents in the C ity was far higher than in any other subdivision of the State. Although three counts were pled failure of the State to discharge its obligation under Article VIII of the State Consti tution, denial of equal treatment under Article 24 of the Declaration of Rights, and denial of a property interest in an adequate public education under Article 24 the heart of the complaint was that the State had failed to provide resources sufficient to enable the Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) to meet, or even make meaningful progress in meeting, co ntempora ry education sta ndards, esp ecially with respect to at-risk studen ts, as measu red by the leve l of student outcomes and the availability of educational resources. As relief, the plaintiffs asked, among other things, that the court (1) declare that the State h ad failed to fulfill its obligation to provide a system of public scho ols adequate to meet the needs of the schoolch ildren in Ba ltimore City and had violate d their right to an adequate education , equal treatm ent, and due process o f law under A rticles VIII and 24, (2) order the de fendants to work with the plaintiffs and Baltimore City to develop a plan to imp rove the pu blic schools in the City and to ta ke all steps ne cessary to implement that plan, and (3) retain jurisdiction to monitor and ensure compliance with any injunctive provisions in its judgmen t. In September, 1995, the City filed a separate three-count action against the State. Although it charged that, based on the results of standardized testing, the State had failed to provide an ade quate p ublic ed ucation anywh ere in the State, its principal focus was on -5- Baltimore City s unique status. In that regard, the complaint noted that the City had the lowest tax capacity among the 24 subdivisions but yet the highest property tax rate, that the burden of local funding w as disproportionately hard on the C ity, and that the State s failure to provide adequate funding to the City impacted its ability to recruit, supp ort, and retain teachers and to maintain its physical facilities. The City ave rred that it wa s unable to meet contemporary Statewide qualitative educational stand ards becau se the State h ad failed to provide it with adequate resources and assistance, that such failure deprived th e children in the City of their right to receive a basic public school education, and that such deprivation, in turn, infringed on the children s right to free speech and to vote under Articles 40 and 7 of the Declaration of Rights. All of that was under Count I, alleging a violation o f Article VIII. In Count II, the City asserted that, because the State had failed to assess the needs of the City s discrete student populations (minority, impoverished, and disabled) to ensure that BCPS has the necessary resource s to provide a basic pub lic school ed ucation to a ll of its studen ts, the State was engaging in discriminatory conduct. Count III alleged that the State s process of reconstituting schools that failed to meet State standards violates due process because it fail[s] to prov ide local sch ool districts with any process to challenge the arbitrary f inding s and ac tions of the State Super intende nt or the State B oard. 2 2 The City did not explain how, as a political subdivision of the State, it was entitled to due process of law from the State. -6- In October, 1995, the State filed a third-party claim against the City, in which it averred that the City had totally failed to m anage ad equately the Baltimo re City Public School system and that [a]ny inadequacies in the education received by the children of Baltimore City are a direct result of that failure and can only be remedied by a total restructuring of the mana gement o f BCP S. The S tate contende d that the C ity had failed to implement a legislatively-endorsed series of recommendations made in 1992 by a consulting firm, that it had failed to use nearly $12 million in Federal and State resources that had been made available to it in FY 1992-1995, that due to lack of planning and management, it had failed to access millions of dollars of additional Federal funds that could have become available, and that it failed to use $20 million of State capital improvement funds because of delays in design work and in signing contracts. The State alleged further that the City had failed to develop and imple ment a uniform curriculum, an effective personnel training and evaluation system, an adequate management information system, an adequate procurement system, effective testing protocols, effective grants administration and monitoring, a comprehensive plan to reduce school crime, and an adequate plan to comply with the mandates of the U.S. District Court with respect to special education programs then under Federal court scrutiny. As relief, the State asked that the City be held liable for the plaintiffs claims should they prevail and that the City school system be restructured. The court consolidated the two cases, dismissed the Governor and Comptro ller as party defendants in the Bradford case, and dismissed Count III of the City s complaint. On -7- October 18, 1996, the court entered a partial sum mary judgment in the consolidated cases. It found that there was no genuine dispute of m aterial fact in these cases as to whether the public school children in Baltimore City are being provided with an ed ucation tha t is adequate when measured by contemporary educational standards and declared, based on the evidence submitted on the partial summary judgment motions, that the public school children in Baltimore City are not being provided with an education that is adequate when measured by contemporary educational standards. It con cluded further, how ever, that there was a genuine dispute reg arding the c ause of the inadequa te education provided to the City students an d the liability therefo r. Those issu es were re served fo r trial. On November 26, 1996, about a month after the entry of the partial summary judgmen t, the parties in both cases ente red into a Con sent Dec ree th at provid ed, e ssen tially, for five things a significant restructuring of the governance of the City Public School System, the provision of certain additional funding by the State for FY 1998-2002, the development of a plan to increase student achievement, interim and final review and evaluation of progre ss, and the co ntinuance of jurisdiction by the court. 3 The decree looked 3 As noted briefly above, a parallel action, in which the City had been sued for not providing adequate special education programs to children in need of them, was pending in Fede ral Cou rt. Vaughn G. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (Civ. Action No. MJG-84-1911). Judge Garbis, who presided over that case in the U.S. District Court, and Judge Kaplan, who presided over the consolidated cases in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, had held some joint hearings in the respective cases, and, to a limited extent, the Fe deral and S tate cases pre sented sim ilar issues and were pro ceeding in tandem. Because the provisions of the Consent Decree in the State actions would impact on issues pending in the Federal action, the parties in the parallel Federal action (continued...) -8- toward a partnersh ip arrangem ent betwe en the City and the State an d recogn ized that the implementation of many of its provisions would require legislative approval by the General Assemb ly. It therefore pro vided that th e decree w ould not become fully effective until (1) the Governor signed partnership legislation in a form that did not affect the substantive rights of the parties esta blished by the decree, and (2) the State Budget for FY 1998 was approv ed with the add itional fu nds fo r FY 1 998 pr ovided for in ¶ 4 7 of the decree . With respect to the restructuring, the parties agreed and the court ordered, through ¶¶ 2 and 8 through 20 of the decree, that the current City Board of School Commissioners be replaced by a new Board of School Commissioners consisting of nine voting mem bers and one non-votin g student m ember. W e shall refer to the new bo ard hereaf ter as th e Boa rd. The nine voting members were to be appointed jo intly by the Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore from a list submitted by the Maryland State Board of Education (MSBE). The decree set forth certain qualifications for the voting members, provided a staggered threeyear term for them, and established quorum requirements. The new Board was to be vested with full control o f all function s relating to B CPS in a ccordanc e with the partnership legislation and over all personnel and procurement involving the schools, and was to be directly accountable for improving the academic achievement of Baltimore City school children as measured by the Maryland Scho ol Performance P rogram (M SPP). The B oard 3 (...continued) contemporaneously entered into a Consent Decree in that action. Each Consent Decree was incorporated b y reference into the other. -9- was required to appoint a Chief Executive Officer to serve at its pleasure, who was to be responsible for the overall administration of the BCPS. Provisions were made for other executive officials and for a Parent and Community Advisory Board. By September, 1997, the Board was to adopt a transition plan to guide the operation of the schoo l system in the 1997-98 school year. By January 1, 1998, the CEO was to present to the Board a Master Plan to increase student ach ievemen t, and, after rev iew and p ublic hearings, the Board was required to adopt a Master Plan by March 1, 1998. The Master Plan was to include a comprehensive design for improvement of school management and accounta bility of all personnel as well as implementation of the key recommendations made in three ide ntified c onsulta nt repo rts. It was to address ten enumerated topics and identify the actions necessary to improve student performance. Paragraph 40 required the Board and MSBE, by July 1, 1999, to select an independent consultant to evaluate the interim progress of reform . The consultant was to report the results of its evaluation by April 30, 2000. Paragraph 42 required the Board and M SBE, by Jan uary 1, 2001, to select an independent consultant to conduct a final comprehensive review and evaluation of BCPS. The final report was to examine the extent of progress made in improving the schools, cover all of the topics examined in the interim evaluation, and was to be made by December 1, 2001. The financing provisions were contained in ¶¶ 43-54. Paragraphs 43, 47, and 48 obligated the State to provide a dditional fu nding to the City public s chool system , subject to appropriation by the General Assembly, as follows: (1) for operating expenses, $30 million -10- for FY 1998 and $50 million for each of FY 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002; and (2) through the State School Construction Program, at least $10 million in each of FY 1998 through 2002, subject to a 10% match by the City. The additional operating funds required under ¶ 47 were to be used (1) to improve educational performance in schools having a high percentage of students living in poverty, in reco nstitution-eligib le schools, an d in other sc hools that failed to meet MSPP standards, (2) to make progress in meeting teacher s alary parity with Baltimore County, and (3) to implement certain other enumerated improvements. Paragraph 52 of the decree permitted the Board, for FY 1999 through 2002, to request from the State, throu gh the State Budget process, funds in excess of those requ ired under ¶ 47 if the Board presented a detailed plan showing why the additional funds were needed and how they would be spent. The State agreed to use its best efforts to satisfy such a request, subject to availability of the funds. Paragraph 53 provided, in addition, that, for FY 2001 and 2002, the Board could request funds in excess of those required under ¶ 47 after completion of the interim evaluation described in ¶ 40.4 (Emphasis add ed). If such a request was made, the Bradford and Vaughn plaintiffs were to have an opportunity to present their views to the Board and the Sta te and the S tate and the Board were given from April 30, 2000 to June 1, 2000 to negotiate regarding the request. If no agreement was reached, the Board was authorized to seek relief from the Circuit Court. In that event, the matter was to be placed 4 The decree actually referenced ¶¶ 38 and 39, but the interim evaluation was provided for in ¶ 40. Paragraphs 38 and 39 do not provide for or even mention that evaluation. We assu me that the reference to tho se paragraphs w as a typographical error. -11- on an expedited schedule, with a hearing commencing no later than 15 days after the filing of a motion f or relief. The State expre ssly reserved a ll of its defenses as to any Court order for such funds in am ounts greater than those provided in paragraph 47. Paragraph 53 conclude d, in relevan t part, with the p rovision tha t: Any party may a ppeal the Circuit Court s ruling to the Court of Appeals, but the Bradford Plaintiffs m ay appeal on ly if the Board appeals. The Circuit Court shall stay any order pending appeal, and the parties shall jointly request expedited consideration of the matter by the Court of Appeals. The partnership legislation shall include statutory authority providing for direct review by the Court of Appeals of Maryland and requesting that the Court of Appeals of Maryland issue a decisio n withi n 60 da ys after br iefing is comp leted. Paragraph 68 provided that the decree would remain in effect through June 30, 2002, unless the court extended the term on timely motion of a party and a showing of good cause. Paragraph 69 provided that the court would retain continuing jurisdiction during the term of the decree to monitor and enforce compliance with it and that any party could seek to enforce its terms. That paragraph also stated that, notwithstanding termination of the decree, the court retained jurisdiction to resolve any disputes that arose during the term of the decree. In its next session, the Ge neral Asse mbly enacted 1997 M d. Laws , ch. 105, that, although not entirely consistent with the terms of the Consent Decree, the parties agreed was sufficiently consistent to make the decree effective. The statute did not provide for any direct appeal to the Court of Appeals. Two years later, by 1999 Md. Law s, ch. 601, the Legislature created a Commission on Education, Finance, Equity, and Excellence to review the current -12- education financing formulas and accountability measures and make rec ommen dations w ith respect to certain enumerated subjects. The Commission, which has become known as the Thornton Commission after its chairman, Alvin Thornton, was to make an interim report by January 1, 2000 and a final report by October 15, 2000. At some po int, apparently in the spring of 1999, the Board and MSBE jointly selected Metis Associate s, Inc. as the co nsultant to prepare an interim report, pursuant to ¶ 40 of the Consent Decree. That interim r eport w as rend ered on Febru ary 1, 200 0. Long before that report was filed even before Metis began any substantial work the Bradford plaintiffs and the Board began working on a prop osal for a dditiona l fun ding . Tha t process began in May, 1999 and continued throu ghout the summ er and fall. On Decem ber 9, 1999, the Bo ard presented Building on Succ ess: A Remedy Plan to Address Continuing Funding Needs of the Baltimore City Public School System, in which it concluded that an additional $265 million was required annually for instructional programs and an additional $133 million was required annually for capital improvements. Apparently recognizing that an infusion of that magnitude was not lik ely to happen all at once, the Board created certain priorities and asked, for FY 2001, for an additional $49.7 million for instructional programs and an additional $40 million for capital improvements.5 5 The $265 million was broken down into $62.3 million to increase instructional time; $16.7 million to expand the instructional curriculum in the areas of art, music, physical education, and foreign language; $4.8 million to supplement library resources; $3.5 million to increase allocations for materials and supplies; $0.15 million to expand extra-curricular activities; $43 million to expand kindergarten and pre-kindergarten (continued...) -13- On February 1, 2 000, M etis Associa tes, Inc., the con sultant jointly selected by the Board and MSBE, submitted a lengthy interim evaluation of BCPS, for the 1998-99 school year. The evaluation reported meaningful progress in some areas, less progress in others. Of particular importance here is that, based on a January, 2000 study of BCPS by the Coun cil of the Great City Schools, which compared the funding of BCPS to that in other major cities and in other M aryland subd ivisions, M etis conclud ed that an a dequate per pupil expenditure was approximately $10,274. That amount, it said, represents the amount per pupil [BCPS] would need [in order] to have resources equivalent to the highest performing school districts in the State, after adjusting for student needs. Metis found that the average per pupil expenditure in B altimore City in 1998-99 was $7,576, and that, to reach the optimal $10,274, an additional $2,698 was necessary. The consultant recommended that the Board seek th at additio nal fun ding. After negotiations proved unsuccessful, the Board, in June, 2000, filed a petition 5 (...continued) programs; $36.3 million to create smaller learning environments; $20 million to enhance instructio nal tech nology; $ 22.4 m illion to e xpand offerin gs for d isruptiv e stude nts; $4.9 million to dev elop twiligh t schools to re duce the n umber o f dropou ts; $11.3 millio n to increase stud ent suppo rt services; $4 4.8 million to e nhance p rofessiona l developm ent; $12.3 million to expand teacher recruitment and retention efforts; and unspecified amounts to enhance high school and middle school reform. The $49.7 million consisted of $4.2 m illion to recruit an d retain teach ers; $3.2 millio n for prof essional de velopme nt; $12 million for summer remedial programs; $5 million for kindergarten and prekindergarte n program s; $5.4 million to prepare h igh schoo l students to p ass the State standardized tests; $3.6 million to prepare middle school students for rigorous high school pursuits ; $4.5 million for additional psychologists, social workers, and counselors; $0.95 million for instructional leadership; $6.75 million for enriched instr uctio nal c urric ulum ; and the b alan ce fo r inst ructiona l tech nolo gy. -14- pursuant to ¶ 53 of th e Conse nt Decree , in which it as ked the co urt to declare that the Baltimore City public sch ools need additional fu nding of approxim ately $260 m illion for educational operating expenses each scho ol year, as well as approxim ately $600 m illion in additional capital funding over a reasonable period of time to correct serious def iciencies in the school system s facilities . . . . After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the court, on June 30, 2000, filed a Memorandum Opinion and accomp anying Order. In its Order, the court, after referencing its 1996 determination that the State was not providing the children of Baltimore with a Constitutionally adequate education when measured by contemporary educational standards, declared that still to be the case. It declared as well that the State had failed to make the statutorily mandated best efforts to provide even a reasonable downpayment on the additional approxim ately $2,000 to $ 2,600 per p upil that is nee ded to pro vide the ch ildren of the [BCPS] with a Co nstitutionally Adequate E ducation when measured by Con temporary Educational Stand ards. In furtherance of tha t finding, the court declared that the S tate s allocation of $19.9 m illion for 2001 and the allocation of $23.9 million for 2002 out of a $940 million bud get surplus in Fiscal Year 2001 is not making a best effort out of the available funds a nd wou ld not enab le the Boa rd to provide the City s school c hildren w ith a constitutionally adequate education. Th e final prov ision in the O rder was e ssentially hortatory. The cou rt declared th at, having fo und that the State was not fulfilling its obligation under Article VIII, the Cou rt trusts that the S tate will act to b ring itself into -15- compliance with its constitutional and contractual obligations under the Consent Decree for Fiscal Y ears 20 01 and 2002 w ithout th e need for Pla intiffs to take fu rther ac tion. The State no ted an a ppeal f rom tha t Order , and we gra nted certiorari prior to proceedings in the Cou rt of Specia l Appeals . In its brief, the S tate argued that (1) the C ircuit Court had no authority to determine either the liability for the Constitutional inadequacy of the City school children s education or the amount of funds required from the State, under either the Consent Decree or under the doctrine of separation of pow ers, and (2) the court s order was clearly erroneous. In its first argument, the State contended that the c ourt exceeded the scope of the Consent Decree w hen it determine d that the Sta te was ob liged to increase its annual funding of the City school system by $200 to $260 million ($2,000 to $2,600/pu pil times an estimated 100,000 pupils) and that the effect of its ruling was an order to the Governor and General Assembly to appropriate the necessary funds, which the court had no Constitutional authority to do. In its second argument, the State complained that the court ignored the evidence and argu ment it presented and that the court s finding that the State did not use its best efforts to obtain the additional funding requested by the plaintiffs was erroneous. A week before oral argument, the parties jointly requested that the argument be pos tponed . We de nied tha t reques t, where upon th e State d ismisse d its app eal. In December, 2001, Westat, the consultant selected pursuant to ¶ 42 of the Consent Decree to rend er a fina l evalua tion, ma de its rep ort. In contradiction to findings later made by other panels, Westat found significant improvement in almost all categories. It concluded -16- that the Board was providing strong leadership in improving what, by all criteria, was an educational system beyond the brink of failure and had begun to establish a coherent administrative and management structure. It found that many new initiatives had been put in place, although few cou ld be cons idered fully tested or established . With resp ect to funding, Westat found that per pupil expenditures in BCPS are now approaching $10,000 the amount that Metis had determined would be adequate of which about 25% was from local sources. In comparison with other similar cities, Baltimore ranked about in the middle ahead of Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Indianapolis, but behind Pittsburgh and Newark. Westat noted the diff icult y in att emp ting to de fine ade quacy or sufficiency in education funding. The meanings of those words, it said, keep changing and were buffeted about by three dynamic processes: the efforts of advocacy groups to establish a use of the term favorable to their interests; the efforts of technicians to construct workable quantitative measures for the terms w ith available d ata and analytic techniques; and a growing number of cou rt cases w ith judg es strug gling to find w orkabl e legal d efinition s. The next significant event occurred a month later, in January, 2002, when the Thornton Commission issued its final report on statewide education funding in Maryland. Employing two methodologies to determine the amount of additional funding that would be necessary to fill each school district s adequacy gap the difference between actual funding and needed funding the Commission found that BCPS required additional funding of between $ 2,938 to $4,250 per pupil, translating to an aggregate sum of between $290 -17- million and $420 million. The Commission also made several recommendations for improv ing sch ool fun ding sta tewide . The Legislature considered the Com mission s fin dings and recomm endations in its 2002 Session and, through the enactment of 2002 Md. Laws, ch. 288, which it named the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act, it provided for the eventual implementation of many of those recommendations. The 87-pa ge Act res tructured m any of the Sta te aid formulas and programs and provided for a phased increase in State educational funding for all 24 subdivisions from FY 2003 to FY 2008. According to the Fiscal Note that accompanied the bill, State aid to the local sch ool systems would increase by nearly $148 million in FY 2004, $364 million in FY 2005, $639 million in FY 2006, $948 million in FY 2007, and $1 .3 billion in FY 2008. For the six-year phase-in period, Baltimore City would receive $375.2 million more than it received in FY 2002, an increase of 64%.6 In May, 2002, following the enactment of ch. 288, the Board and the Bradford plaintiffs filed a joint motion asking the court to con tinue its judicial supervision until such time as the constitutional inadequacy of the education provided by [BCPS] has been remed ied. They noted that the judicial supervision provided in the 1996 Consent Decree was due to terminate on June 30, 2002 , that the Con stitutional defic iency found in 1996 and 2000 still existed, and that, because the General Assembly had not identified a revenue 6 The annual increases over FY 2002 funding for B CPS were estimated as follows: FY 20 03 $18 .7 million ; FY 2 004 $2 8.1 millio n; FY 2005 $ 68.9 m illion; FY 2006 $ 125.5 million; FY 2007 $187.6 million; and FY 2008 $258.6 million. -18- source for a large share of the increases p rovided fo r in ch. 288, th ere was so me unce rtainty as to whether those increases would, in fact, be fully funded. Finding that to be the case, the court, by order entered June 25, 2002, determined that it would retain jurisdiction and continue judicial supervision until such time a s the State has comp lied with this Court s June 2000 order. No complaint was made at that time abo ut the validity of th e phase-in approach. The next relevant event occu rred in March , 2004, wh en Judge s Kaplan and Ga rbis signed an order in th eir respective cases directin g the City, the B oard, and th e State defenda nts to provide th e court, by Ap ril 7, 2004, with their plans for the funding and fiscal management of BCPS. The plans were to address certain specific topics, including the amount of the BCPS deficit and projected cash flow gaps, cuts in program and personnel reductions, source of funds, including loans, for current operations and loan repayments, and anticipated cash flow problems and planned solutions. In response to that directive, the City and the Board informed the two judges that BCPS had ended FY 2002 with a deficit of $21 million , it ended FY 2003 with a $37 million deficit, and that the cumulative deficit was therefore $58 million. They noted that the Board had anticipated a $21.6 million surplus for FY 2004, which it planned to use to reduce the deficit, but that, for the first quarter of FY 2 004, it oversp ent its budge t for person nel costs by $24 million , and that, if im mediate action was no t taken, the cu mulative d eficit could grow by that amount. The City and Board advised the judges of their plan to adopt a budget -19- for FY 2005 that would reduce the accumulated deficit by 60% ($35 million) and to adopt a budget for FY 2006 that wou ld eliminate the remaining 40 % ($23 m illion). Apart from this structural deficit, the Boa rd also faced a cash flow shortfall for FY 2004 of $42 million. O n Ma rch 17, 2004, they said, the Board and the City entered into a City Funding Agreement under which the City lent the Board $42 million to deal with the cash flow deficit, $34 million of which was to be repaid in August, 2004 and the balance of $8 million in June, 2006. The Board was expecting an $85.6 million payment from the State on July 31, 2004, and it intended to use some of those funds to make the $34 million partial repayment. In the funding agreem ent, the parties agreed that a three-person Fiscal Operating Committee, appointed by the Mayor, would be created to develop and implement a financial recovery plan by May 30, 2004. That plan was to include, among other things, a new internal budgetary process, a schedule for reducing the structural deficit, further cost-savings measures, and an affordable, downsized staffing model for [BCPS]. The Fiscal Operating Committee made its Report to the Board on May 30, 200 4. It attributed the accumulated deficit to budgeted personnel vacancies that never materialized, reduced class sizes, expanded summer school, enhanced classroom assistance, and transportation contract cost overruns. It noted that the FY 2004 plan to reduce the deficit not only could not be implemented but that an additional deficit was looming because (1) budgeted personnel costs were based on estimated salaries that did not reflect actual salaries, -20- (2) previously promised re-engineering efforts were never completed, (3) temporary employees were no t laid off w hen projec ted, (4) staff in itially paid through grants were absorbed by general funds when the grants expired, and (5) monthly cost reporting lagged months behind. To meet the problem, various co st-saving ef forts were immedia tely put into place, mostly involving a reduction in staff, including what appeared to be non-essential staff non-essential temporary employees and surplus teachers and administrators. In what it termed A Roadm ap to Financial Recovery, the Committee observed that , [p]ut simp ly, [BCPS] must not only continue to cut and contain costs in the remaining months of FY2004 and plan to live within its means, it must also produce future year surpluses that will equal or exceed the cumulative defic it that it will carry forward at the end of the current fiscal year. In July, 2004, a sep arate pane l appointed by MSB E to investig ate the BC PS defic it made its report. The panel noted several erroneous assumptions on the part of the General Assemb ly in the enactm ent of ch. 2 88 itself, includ ing an ove restimate of what B CPS co uld do on its own, an underestimate of what the City wou ld continue to do to assist BC PS, failure to focus on the development of oversight by the State Departmen t of Education, and f ailure to maintain an y meaningf ul follow-u p or initiate corr ective action when de ficiencies were identified. The makings of a disaster, it said, were there from the beginning, including no continuity of lead ership in BCP S (fou r CEO s, three CF Os, and a t least two C AOs in six years), no system of internal co mmun ication, no dis cipline, no m eaningfu l oversight, a sense -21- in middle management that new initiatives need not be followed because senior management would change, no accountability, and no sanctions for failure to p erform. There was strong pressure to increase academic achievement without anyone focusing on the entire system and its budget issues. The panel concluded that, [i]n a system with almost a complete lack of consequence for overspending, the surprise is that the deficit is not even larger. A similar critique of BCPS management, along with positive recommendations for improvement, was rendered by The Greater Baltimore Committee and The Presidents Roundtable, which had been requested by the Mayor of Baltimore and th e president of the Bo ard to review BC PS s budget process and fiscal management practices.7 While the City s Fiscal Operating Committee, the MSBE panel, and the Greater Baltimore Committee were analyzing and attempting to deal with the BCPS deficit and management deficiencie s, the Gene ral Assem bly, obviously concerned about school budget deficits, enacted 2 004 M d. Laws , ch. 148, w hich it called th e Educa tion Fiscal A ccountab ility and Oversight Act of 2004. Part of that Act was a new § 5-114 added to the Education 7 There was general agreement among all of the groups that studied the fiscal affairs of BCPS that there were serious and systemic management deficiencies, some of long standing, that were simply never addressed. Programs were put into place without regard to the lack of available funding; funds that were, or could have been made available were never used because of mismanagement and inattention. Painful but necessary decisions layoffs, etc. were either deferred or simply not implemented. Some of the p roblem s arose w hen the new b oard as sumed contro l pursua nt to ch. 2 88. Prior to that time, the City Government handled some of the fiscal matters for the school system, but that ended when the new board was appointed. The management staff appoin ted by the new b oard se emed incapa ble of d ischarg ing tho se respo nsibilities . -22- Article, which required each local school superintendent to file a biannual report on the financial status of the lo cal school s ystem and req uired the Sta te Superintendent of Scho ols to monitor the financial status of each local schoo l system and to m ake a bian nual report to the Go vernor and L egislatu re. Section 5-114(e) p rovided tha t a local school system may not carry a deficit as reported in the annu al audit of its financial transactions and accounts required under § 5-109 of the Education Article. The term deficit was defined as a negative fund balance in the General Fund of 1% or more of General Fund revenue at the end of the fiscal year. If a deficit was repo rted, the S tate S uperinte ndent was re quired (1 ) to notify the Governor, the General A ssembly, and th e approp riate county go vernmen t, and (2) am ong other things, to require the local school system to develop and submit for approval a corrective action cost containment plan within 15 days and to file monthly status reports demonstrating action taken to close the deficit. If the local school system failed to comply with those requirements, the State Superinten dent, with th e approv al of the Sta te Board of Education, was to notify the State Comptroller who, in turn, was to withhold 10% of each installment of State funds payable to the loca l schoo l system u ntil com pliance was ef fected . Appare ntly recognizing that it would be impracticable to immediately apply the prohibition agai nst d efic its to Balt imore City, which the n was rep orting at least a $58 million deficit, the Legislature provided, in an uncodified § 4 of the Act, that [n]otwithstanding § 5-114(e) of the Education Article, the Baltimore City Board of School Comm issioners sha ll -23- eliminate the general fund deficit as reported in the ann ual a udit requ ired by § 5-109 of the Education Article by no la ter than the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006. That provision, which was consistent with the plan adopted by the Mayor s Fiscal Operating Committee and with the City/Board s April 7, 2004 representation to Judges Kaplan a nd Garb is, effectively gave Baltimore City one year more than was given to the 23 other loc al school system s to eliminate any deficit it might be carrying. Ch. 148 took effect July 1, 2004. A week later, on July 8, the Bradford plaintiffs filed a motion complaining that the BCPS plan to eliminate the deficit and repay the loan obtained from the City would reduce the educational opportunities available to the City students. They noted that, to obtain the funds needed to reduce the deficit, BCPS planned to eliminate systemic summer school for at-risk children in elementary and middle schools, increase class size, eliminate guidance counselors and other specialists, and encourage the retirement of skilled teachers. Accordingl y, they asked the court to direc t the State, the C ity, and BCP S to revisit the ir plans to address th e fiscal crisis to make certain that the funds av ailable to edu cate studen ts in the 2004-05 scho ol year are sufficient to ensure co ntinued pro gress in the direction of that remed y. In an accompa nying memorand um, they disclaimed any notion that the co urt should directly involve itself in finding solutions to the fiscal problems, rewriting the budget, or directing specific programs to which funds should be channeled, but suggested a number of ways in which sufficient funds would become available. Among the suggestions were that the State accelerate th e phase-in of additional funding under ch. 288 (the Thornton -24- funding), that the City relax the requirement that the Board repay $34 million of the $42 million loan in August, 2004, and that the parties alter BCPS s plan to eliminate its structural deficit within two years. The Board endorsed that motion. The State responde d with a motion se eking a de claration that S tate aid, as provided in ch. 288 satisfies the constitutional standard of adequacy and that the court order such additional restructuring of BCPS in order for the system to function efficiently and effect ively. In furtherance of its first requ est, the State no ted that the F ebruary, 2000 Metis Report concluded th at BCPS needed a n additiona l $2,000 - $ 2,600 per p upil over w hat it received in FY 1999, and it advised that, for FY 2005, State aid alone had increased over the FY 1999 level between $2,360 and $2,478 per pupil. If increases in local and Federal funding were considered , BCPS would receive in FY 20 05 approximately $3,400 /pupil more than it received in FY 1999. The State argued that the funding formula ado pted in ch. 2 88, whe n coupled with other sources of funding, would lead to Constitutional adequacy throughout the State and that the court wa s not autho rized to direc t a specific funding level. It pointed to a 2004 report by Ernst & Young indicating that systemic management deficiencies still existed in BCPS and that, for the period 2001-2004, it had failed to avail itself of over $13 million of av ailable State and Federal funds. T he State de fended B CPS s p lans to repay the City loan in accordance with its agreement and to eliminate the structural deficit by 2006. It argued that § 4 of ch. 148 had a rational basis and was Constitutionally valid. -25- Following a four-day evidentiary hearing, the parties submitted proposed findings of fact to the court. On August 20, 2004, the court filed a lengthy memorandum opinion and accompanying order. In the memorandum opinion, the court adopted most of the proposed findings submitted by the plaintiffs and virtually none of those proposed by the State. After reciting much of the history of the case and the various orders it had entered, the court found, among o ther things, tha t: (1) the estimates that undergirded the Thornton Commission recommen dations, largely adopted in ch. 288, were too low; (2) the increases actually received by BCPS under ch. 288 were less than those projected when the law was enacted; (3) full funding under ch. 288 would not occur until FY 2008; (4) BCPS needs substantial additional resources; (5) the State had not yet come close to complying with the Court s June 2000 direction that an additional $2,000 to $2,600 per pupil be provided ; (6) the additio nal $2,000 to $2,600 w as to be on top of what was provided in FY 2001 and FY 2002, not FY 1999, and on top of mandated increases, and the additional funding since FY 2002 w as only $1,35 3/pupil; (7) for FY 2001 thro ugh 200 4, the State underfunded B CPS by $4 39.4 million to $834.7 million (depen ding on whe ther $2,000 or $2,600 was used); -26- (8) academ ic achievem ent amon g City students remained grossly unsatisf actory; 8 (9) consistent with its obligations under both § 4 o f ch. 148 a nd its own commitment to Judges Kaplan and Garbis, the Board determine d to institute co st savings su fficient to retire 60% of the $58 million deficit in FY 2005 and the remaining 40% in FY 2006; and (10) to achie ve that result, the Board ins tituted certain c uts to educational programs and services which the court described in some detail and wh ich it conclud ed will immedia tely and adversely affect the quality of education being provide d to children in Baltimore City and create[] significant morale issues both within the system and among the pare nts and studen ts it serve d. In announ cing its conclusions of law, the court said that it was gravely concerned that the measures taken by the State, the City, and the Board to a ddress the s tructural def icit have compromised the quality of education being provided to Baltimore City s schoolchildren and that this was compounded by the State s unwillingness to provide immed iate funding in accord with this Court s final 200 0 order an d will not arg uably 8 Among the facts found in this regard were that 2003 scores on the Maryland School Assessment Test show that nearly two-thirds of Baltimore City tenth grade students did not adequately read or comprehend grade level reading material and that from 58% to 89% of City students, depending on grade, were functioning at an unsatisfactory level in mathematics; City pupils performance on high school assessment tests also demonstrate a substantial failure to meet state standards only 20.7% passed the algebra exam an d only 26% passed the biology exam ; City pupils drop out rate hovered close to 11 % and thus su bstantially exceeded the State standard (3 %); absenteeism remained a large problem on any given day, one out of five students was not in class; and City suspension and expulsion rates were the highest in the State. -27- comply with that order until 2008 when full funding under the Bridge to Excellence Act is received. To that end , the court, in its accompanying order: (1) Declared that the Constitutional violation that the court found to exist in 1996 and 2000 is still continuing and th at full compliance with the 2000 declaration and funding sufficient for BCPS to achieve Constitution al adequa cy will not occ ur until BCPS receives at least $225 million in additional State funding under ch. 288, at the latest by FY 2008. (2) Declared that the City children should not have to wait another three years for adequate funding and that [g]iven the substantial underfunding of [BCPS], the Court declares that it would be appropriate for the State to accelerate increases in full Thornton funding to [BCPS]. The Court will not, in any event, tolerate any delays in full Thornton funding for [BCPS] beyond FY 2008. (3) Declar ed that, [t]o e nsure that the necessary fu nding is av ailable for [BCP S] to provide the basic educational programs that have been reduced, the requirement in § 4 of ch. 148 that the [BCPS] deficit must be eliminated by the end of fiscal year 2 006 is unconstitu tional as applied to [BCPS] and that the comparable provision in the City Funding Agreement that the BCPS deficit be eliminated by the end of F Y 2006 is null and void as agains t public p olicy. 9 Coupled with that declaration, the court directed that 9 We are unable to find any requirement in the City Funding Agreement, which the court referred to as an MOU, directing that the deficit be eliminated by 2006. The Agreement required the financial recovery plan adopted by the Fiscal Operating Committee a committee appointed by the Mayor to include a schedule for the reduction of the structural deficit. The plan to eliminate 60% of the deficit in FY 2005 (continued...) -28- Absent additional fu nding fro m the State of Maryland, [BCPS] shall not retire the deficit before fiscal year 2008 and [BCPS] shall not dedicate more than $5 million per year toward the crea tion of a $20 m illion cas h reserv e. (4) Declared that, notwithstanding the court s abrogation of the requirement that the deficit be elim inated by 200 6, the City shall be repaid the remaining $8 million of its $42 million lo an as sc hedule d. 10 (5) Noted tha t a numbe r of steps tak en to address the financial crisis elimination of a systemic summer scho ol program, increases in class size, re duction of experienced teachers, mentors, and coaches, and elimination of guidance counselors reduced educational opportunities and impermissibly interfered with progress toward providing a Constitutionally adequate education, and declared, in light of that circumstance that [T]he parties should ensure that educational opportunities for the school ch ildren are no t reduced, b y making av ailable to the children of Baltimore City at least the amount of funding representing the savings achieved from those reduced educational opportunities described above, to be spent solely on programs and services that benef it at-risk children. The Court further declares that that amount constitutes at least an additional $30-45 m illion in operating funding this fiscal year. * * * 9 (...continued) and the remaining 40% in FY 2006 was part of that plan. 10 Notwithstanding the dire circumstances found by the court, the Board repaid the first installment of $34 million on the $42 million loan in August, 2004, as it had agreed to do. The court seemed to have no problem with that repayment or with the Board s plan to repay the remaining $8 million in June, 2006. -29- The Cou rt believe s that the b est w ay to accomplish this goal would be for the parties with revenue raising capacity (the State or City) to increase the funding available to [BCPS] for the upcom ing year. (6) Declared that the cou rt would retain jurisdiction to e nsure com pliance w ith its orders and mandates and co ntinue mo nitoring fun ding and m anagem ent issues un til full funding is received, at w hich time the court would revis it the issue of its continuing jurisdiction and determine whether the Consent Decree should then be extended for good cause. (7) Ordered the City to continue monitoring BCPS financing and accounting and ensure that expenditures do not exceed revenues, but enjoined the City not to impose any budge t cuts or to restrict pr ogram fundin g. (8) Having issued those declarations, expressed the trust that the parties would act in good faith and with all deliberate speed to ensure compliance without the necessity of further action b y the cou rt. The State appealed, and we granted certiorari prior to proceedings in the Court of Special Appe als. The State has raised four issues and the plaintiffs have raised three. They can be restated as follows: (1) Is the August, 2004 order, or any part of it, presently appealable and, if so, on what basis; (2) If the ord er is appeala ble, in whole or in part, what issues are properly before us at this point; and -30- (3) To the extent one or more issues are properly before us, did the C ircuit Court err? DISCUSSION Appealab ility We have, on a number of occasions, articulated and confirmed the rule that the right to seek appellate review of a trial court s ruling ordinarily must await the entry of a final judgment that disposes of all claims against all parties, and that there are only three exceptio ns to that rule: appeals from interlocutory orders specifically allowed by statute, predom inantly those kinds of orders enumerated in Maryland Code, § 12-303 of the Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article; immediate appeals permitted under Maryland Rule 2-60 2(b); and ap peals from interlocutory rulings allowed under t he com mon la w colla teral ord er doctr ine. See Smith v. Lead Industries Assoc., Inc., 386 Md. 12, 21, 871 A.2d 545, 550-51 (2 005); Frase v. Barnhart, 379 Md. 100 , 109-10, 840 A .2d 114, 119 (200 3); Shoem aker v. Sm ith, 353 Md. 143, 165, 725 A .2d 549, 560-61 (1 999). The State initially sought to treat the question of appealability, which, of course, is a critical, threshold one, in a brief footnote: The circuit court s order is appealable because it is a final declaratory judgme nt on the m atters presen ted to it in August 2004. Declaratory judgments are final judgm ents. Md. Jud. Proc. Co de Ann . § 3-411. F urther, to the ex tent that the court s order is in the nature of an injunction, it is im mediately appealable. See Md. Cts. & Jud. P roc. Code Ann., § 12-303; Funger v. Mayer, 244 M d. 141, 1 49 (19 66). -31- In response to the Bradford plaintiffs m otion to dismiss the appeal, the State decided to pay somew hat more a ttention to the q uestion. In its reply brief, it urges tha t the Circuit Court s attempt to enforce the Consent Decree far exceeded its subject matter jurisdiction in that [i]t had n o authority to summo n parties to co urt to address the [BCP S] budge t deficit, to direct the parties, including the defendants, to file pleadings; or to craft an order that went far beyond anything the Consent Decree contemplated or authorized. Relying upon Waters v. Smith, 277 Md. 189, 196, 352 A.2d 793, 797 (1976) and Cohen v. Willett, 269 Md. 194, 195, 304 A.2d 824, 825 (1973), it avers that [a]n appeal lies immediately from an order which exceeds the jurisdiction of the trial court. The State also supplemented its footnote with the assertion that [b]ecause the parties only requested declaratory relief and because . . . the declaratory judgment issued in Augu st 2004 ad dressed all re quests for s uch relief, it is a fina l appea lable jud gmen t. Although, for reasons to be explained, we shall conclude that one aspect of the co urt s order was in the nature of an injunction that was im mediately appealable under § 12-303 of the Cts. & Jud. Proc. Article, we find no merit whatever in the alternative bases urged by the State. There is a line of cases, commencing with Gottshalk v. Mercantile Trust Co., 102 Md. 521, 62 A. 810 (19 06), and Eastern States Corp. v. Eisler, 181 Md. 526, 30 A.2d 867 (1943) and extending through Montgomery Co. Coun. v. Kaslow, 235 Md. 45, 51, 200 A.2d 184, 187 (1964), Cohen v. Willett, and Waters v. Smith , both supra, in which this Court has indeed -32- indicate d that an immed iate app eal may lie from a n order that is juri sdiction ally deficie nt. That view has long been discarded. In more recent times, as noted above, we have made clear that there are only three exceptions to the final jud gment rule, and a m ere allegation that an interlocutory order exceeded the subject matter jurisdiction of the cou rt is not one of them . In Gruber v. Gruber, 369 Md. 540, 547, 801 A.2d 1013, 1017 (2002), we held flatly that a trial court s ord er denying a c hallenge to its jurisdiction is a n onappea lable interlocutory order. We have similarly discarded the once-held view that a n immed iate appeal would lie from an orde r denying a Con stitutiona l right. Compare Smith v. Fredericktown Bank, 258 Md. 141, 142, 265 A.2 d 236, 23 7 (1970) w ith Parrott v. Sta te, 301 Md. 411, 483 A.2d 68 (1984 ); see also Old Cedar v. Parker Construction, 320 Md. 626, 63132, 579 A.2d 2 75, 278 (1990 ). A contrary approach would be wholly inconsistent with the very purpose of the final judgment rule, which is to avoid piecemeal appeals that create inefficiencies in both the appellate and trial courts. The mere allegation that a clearly interlocutory order is jurisdictionally deficient should not serve to halt proceedings in the trial court while an appellate court cons iders whe ther the allega tion has merit. Moreover, there is no need for a fourth exception to the final jud gment rule . In some ins tances, an o rder that is jurisdictionally deficient may, for other reasons, be immediately appealable as a final judgmen t, under the collateral order doctrine, or under § 12-303, but if it is not, it can -33- certainly be revie wed in an appeal fro m the fina l judgmen t.11 The State s assertio n that any declaration by a cou rt constitutes a f inal judgm ent is patently without merit. It is true that when , in a declaratory judgment action, the co urt enters a judgmen t declaring the rights of the parties and th at judgme nt resolves a ll of the issues in the case, it is appealable, but that is because it constitutes a final judgment in the case. The fact that, as here, a court, in the course of its continuing jurisdiction in a case, makes pronouncements or declarations of one kind or another does not, of itself, imbue those prono uncem ents or d eclaratio ns with the statu s of fin al judgm ents. There clearly has been no final judgment in this case. The case is very much alive in the Circuit Co urt. Indeed, in its Augus t 20, 2004 o rder, the cou rt has actually do ne very little of any immed iate effect. It de clared that the school ch ildren in Ba ltimore City, as of Augus t, 2004, were bein g deprived of their right to a thorough and efficient education. That determination is certainly subjec t to challenge if and when a final judgm ent is entered , if it is still relevant at that time. The court declared that the Constitutional violation would exist until BCPS receives at least $225 million in additional annual aid from the State. That, too, can be challenged, either when a final judgment is entered o r at such time as the court 11 The appeal in Cohe n v. Wille tt, for example, was from an order, in a judicial review action, remanding the case to the administrative agency for further proceedings, the challenge being that the court had no power to enter such an order. In subsequent cases, w e have held tha t such a n order is appe alable a s a final judgm ent. See Department of Public Safety v. LeVan, 288 M d. 533, 542 -43, 419 A .2d 1052 , 1057 (19 80); Schultz v. Pritts, 291 M d. 1, 5-6, 432 A.2d 13 19, 1322 (1981); Md. Comm n on Human R el. v. B.G.& E. Co., 296 M d. 46, 52 -3, 459 A.2d 2 05, 210 (1983 ). -34- attempts to implem ent that findin g by an orde r that is properly appealable on an in terlocutory basis. The cou rt declared th at it would b e approp riate for the S tate to accelerate the phasein of additional funding provided in ch. 288. That is hardly an appealable order. The court decided to retain jurisdiction to continue monitoring funding and man agemen t issues. Until the court does something in the exerc ise of that jurisdiction that is otherwise appealable, however, there is clearly nothing final about that provision. In ¶¶ 8 and 9 of the order, the court declared that the parties should ensure continued progress tow ards constitutional ad equacy by making available to the c hildren of Baltimore City at least $30 m illion to $45 million from the savings ac hieved fro m earlier red uctions in programs and that the best w ay to acco mplish th is go al would be fo r [the Sta te an d the City] to increase fu nding ava ilable to [BCPS] for the upcoming year. It is not clear to us whether the State or the C ity have done anything in response to that suggestion, but those statem ents by the court do not order anyon e to do anythin g. The dire ctive that the C ity continue to monitor the BCP S finance s may be con sidered injun ctive in nature , but the City has not appealed from that directive and it does not obligate the State to do anything. As we view the A ugust, 2004 order, only two aspects of it are appealable at this time. Paragraph 12 orders that the City be repaid the $8 million balance of its loan as scheduled. In both form and substa nce, that con stitutes an ord er for the pa yment of m oney, which is appealab le under § 12-303 (3)(v), and a lthough tha t directive seem s facially incom patible with the court s ruling regarding the elimination of the $58 million deficit, the State has not -35- comp lained in this app eal abo ut that di rective. The second aspect, about which the State does complain, are (1) the declaration in ¶ 10 of the orde r that § 4 of c h. 148 is un constitutiona l, (2) the associated declaration in ¶ 11 that the contrac tual obligation of BCP S to elimina te the deficit b y FY2006 is null and void as against public policy, and (3) the implementing directive, found in ¶ 13 of the orde r, that, absent additional funding from the State, BCPS shall not retire the deficit before fiscal year 2008 and [B CPS] shall not ded icate more than $5 million per year toward the creation of a $20 million case reserve. That directive, which proceeds from the declaration of unconstitutio nality and contravention of public policy, is injunctive in nature, in that it forbids BCPS from taking action that, by public general law, the General Assembly has required BCPS to take and that, by contract f reely entered into with the C ity, it agreed to take. That directiv e is immedia tely appealable under § 1 2-303(3)(i), a nd, along w ith its underpinnings in ¶¶ 10 and 11, are the only aspects of the Aug ust 20, 2004 order that are properly befo re us at this po int. Validity of That Directive Declaring a statute enacted by the General Assembly to be unconstitutional and therefore unenfor ceable is an extraordina ry act. Statutes are g enerally presum ed to be Constitutional and are no t to be held otherwise unless the Constitutional imp ediment is clear. We have said many times that since every presumptio n favors th e validity of a statu te, it -36- cannot be stricken down as void, unless it plainly contravenes a provision of the Cons titution. McG laughlin v. W arfield, 180 Md. 75, 78, 23 A.2d 12, 13 (1941) and cases cited there; see also Atkinso n v. Sapperste in, 191 Md. 301 , 315, 60 A.2d 73 7, 742 (1948); Edgewood Nursing H ome v. M axwell, 282 Md. 422, 427, 384 A.2d 748, 751 (1978); State v. Wyand, 304 Md. 721, 727-28, 501 A.2d 43 , 46-47 (19 85); Gallow ay v. State, 365 Md. 599, 610-11, 781 A .2d 851 , 857-5 8 (200 1). Similar principles apply with respect to striking down otherwise valid contractual provisions as being a gainst p ublic po licy. See Bausch & Lomb v. Utica Mutual, 330 Md. 758, 790, 625 A.2d 1021, 1037 (19 93) ( Maryland cou rts are reluctant to obviate voluntary bargains on public policy grounds, and to diminish th e public interest in having in dividuals and corporations exercise broad po wers as the y structure their own affairs ); see also F inci v. Ame rican Ca sualty, 323 Md. 358, 378-79, 593 A.2d 1069, 1079 (1991). The apparent theory upon w hich the court declared § 4 of ch. 288 unconstitutional is that, if BCP S is required to eliminate its $58 million deficit by FY 2006, as the law mandates, it would have to divert funds fo r that purpo se from e ducationa l program s and that w ould exacerba te the Constitutional deficiency found by the court. That was the presumed basis, as well, for declaring the contractual commitment null and void. The sam e, no doub t, could be said for a hundred other obligations of BCPS, including repayment of the $8 million bala nce o f the loan from the C ity, which the court expressly required be repa id whe n due. What the court overlooked is that § 4 of ch. 288 has an eq uivalent C onstitutional b asis -37- under Article VIII of the Constitution. As part of its responsibility for establishing throughout the State a thorough and efficient system of free public schools, the General Assemb ly has at least the authority, if not an obligation, to ensure that appropriations for educational purposes are mana ged wise ly and, in furtherance of that authority or obligation, to prohibit loca l school systems from running d eficits and, if th ey do run suc h deficits, to insist that they be pro mptly elimina ted. Indeed, to continue to permit school systems, through deliberate or negligent conduct, to become fiscally irresponsible and insolvent, as BCPS became, would be a breach of its solemn responsibility to both the children a nd the taxpayers of the State. As we have observed, BCPS was given a break by the Legislature a dispensation not given to any other subdivision. Whether any other subdivision might have cause of complaint, there is nothing remo tely unconstitutional about §4 of ch. 288 from BCPS s point of view . The part of the court s order directing BCPS not to comply with that mandate is invalid and void, as is the associated declaration regarding the City Financing Agreem ent. Because no other aspect of the August, 2004 order, or any other order entered by the Circuit Court to date, is properly before us, we ex press no o pinion w ith respect to them.12 PARAGRAPHS 10, 11, AND 13 OF ORDER 12 Given the importance of this case and the fact that it has been pending already for nearly eleven years with no end in sight, at least until 2008, we caution the court to be careful in the kinds of declarations and orders it issues. -38- OF AUGUST 20, 2004 ENTERED BY CIRCU IT COURT FOR BALTIMORE CITY VACATED; COSTS TO BE PAID 3/4 BY APPELLANTS, 1/4 BY APPELL EES. -39-